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Preview: NewZealand v Australia

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Sportal.co.nz     23 Aug 2012     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Eden Park, Auckland, 19.35 (NZT), 17.35 (AET)

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 168, New Zealand 116, Australia 47, Drawn 5

LAST TIME: August 18, 2012 (Sydney) – Australia 19-27 New Zealand

WALKING WOUNDED: Australia will be without their skipper and key force in the loose David Pocock after his need for knee surgery which opens up a chance for Michael Hooper. They also lost tighthead prop Sekope Kepu which will see Ben Alexander fill the role. The only concern for New Zealand was prop Tony Woodcock who suffered rib damage and his place has been taken by Wyatt Crockett.

FORM: 

New Zealand:

V Australia, Won 27-19 (a)
V Ireland, Won 60-0 (h)
V Ireland, Won 22-19 (h)
V Ireland, Won 42-10 (h)
V France, Won 8-7 (h)

Australia:
V New Zealand, Lost 19-27 (h)
V Wales, Won 20-19 (h)
V Wales, Won 25-23 (h)
V Wales, Won 27-19 (h)
V Scotland, Lost 6-9 (a)

After the manner of the first Test win the form is with New Zealand, but even that was not as convincing as the All Blacks traditionally like it to be. Australia had their chances, but they were outweighed by their mistakes and while the All Blacks were not faultless, their mistakes were less crucial. Defensively New Zealand proved solid and their work at pinning Australia behind the advantage line gave the home side no room for error.

WHO'S HOT: It's hard to go past the long-standing leaders group in the side who all showed just what the Bledisloe Cup means to them with an emphatic demonstration of their skills. Captain Richie McCaw continues to defy belief with the standards he maintains. Last weekend's game was his 100th as openside flanker, the most by any flanker in Test history while the win was his 95th in Tests, another world record. Keven Mealamu, rid of his calf issues, played his 93rd Test with strength at the breakdown. It was his 93rd Test match as hooker and his 80th win, both are world Test records. And behind them first five-eighths Dan Carter took his Test points tally to 1301, having scored 17 points in each of his last three Tests.

Because of the nature of the game few Australians were able to play at their best but there was no doubting the menace inherent in every aspect of halfback Will Genia's play but he had few chances to have an impact on the game. Similarly, wing Digby Ioane who was forced into a roving commission. Lock Nathan Sharpe proved a loyal retainer while hooker Tatafu Polota Nau was a constant presence in the loose.

WE THINK:
Greater upsets in world sport have occurred than that which could be claimed were Australia to do the business to shrug off their Eden Park curse on Saturday. However, the points impeding that prospect include the fact the All Blacks were disappointed with their effort last weekend. Also, the visitors are without a key performer in their breakdown brigade and that so much ground has to be made up for the visitors to quickly regain their stature. New Zealand forward power could expose the side even more which would open the gaps up for the talented backline. 

TEAMS:
New Zealand: 1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Keven Mealamu, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Daniel Carter, 11.Hosea Gear, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13.Ma'a Nonu, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Andrew Hore, 17.Ben Franks, 18.Brodie Retallick, 19.Victor Vito, 20.Piri Weepu, 21.Aaron Cruden, 22.Ben Smith.
Australia: 1. Benn Robinson, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Ben Alexander, 4. Sitaleki Timani, 5. Nathan Sharpe, 6. Dave Dennis, 7. Michael Hooper, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Digby Ioane,12. Berrick Barnes, 13. Rob Horne, 14. Drew Mitchell, 15. Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Reserves: To be announced

REFEREE: Nigel Owens